Directed by the talented Mélanie Laurent, the film presents a poignant picture of the mistreatment of women in 1800s France by men in power in the world of medicine.
The Mad Women’s Ball or Le Bal des Folles is now streaming on Amazon Prime. The French film is based on the bestselling book by Victoria Mas of the same name. Set in 1885, the film presents a poignant picture of the mistreatment of women in the world of medicine by men in power who failed to understand them. The film is directed by the talented Mélanie Laurent who also plays a major role in the film.
Eugénie Cléry (Lou de Laâge) belongs to a privileged family and is a woman of the world. But she has supernatural powers that allow her to see spirits. This alarms her family, who then sends her away to Pitié-Salpêtrière, a neurological clinic in Paris to be treated for her "madness". Set in the age when almost all of the women's concerns were attributed to the dubious diagnosis of "hysteria," at the asylum too, most women, are also diagnosed with the same. Including Eugénie, who is tortured both mentally and physically at the hands of the therapists. She comes together with the head nurse, Geneviève (Laurent) to figure out how to escape the hellscape.
With the elements of the supernatural, it is clear that Eugénie is a medium who is able to communicate with the dead and does not have any mental illnesses that the therapists are trying to cure her of. Women who claimed to be able to see visions were revered in the medieval ages but all that changed after the enlightenment. Women claiming to see visions were then marginalized as insane.
The film brings to light the struggle for female independence against the oppression of patriarchy that will still resonate with women today. The bond that Geneviève and Eugénie develop is also a story of contrasts. Held in comparison with each other as a reminder of solidarity and sacrifices when it comes to standing up to patriarchy.
Geneviève initially does not have any regard for Eugénie. It is when she successfully communicates with her dead sister Blandine who reveals to Geneviève an accident that was about to happen to her father that she puts all her faith in Eugénie. The story culminates in the titular Mad Women’s Ball when Geneviève plots Eugénie's escape. She invites Eugénie's loving brother Théophile to the ball and helps her flee. These bold actions led to Geneviève was being diagnosed with mental illness herself, and she now has to serve time at the asylum as an inmate.
The story throws light on the male-centric practices in the medical field and their oppressive control over women's bodies. And as Eugénie leaves a letter to Geneviève asking her to keep on dancing, to her own tune, against the oppression of patriarchy.